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Why Tell Your Network What You Do When They Already Know What You Do?

October 23rd, 2014

Someone at the Business Insider took one of my LinkedIn Articles (The Question That Makes Job Seekers Sound Stupid) and chopped it up to make an article on their website.  I’m thankful that they attributed it and linked to JibberJobber.

The comments are pretty lame, however.  It’s sad what people say when they are anonymous.  Here’s the first comment, from “anonymousl_66”):

Dippy article. I get the point of not looking desperate by saying “I’ll do anything”, but if you’re asking friends in your network if they know of any openings, they’ll already have a pretty good idea of what you’re qualified … because they know you.

This is a brilliant assumption.  I had the same assumption assumption when I was in my job search.  If someone “knows me,” then why in the world would I have to tell them who I am, or what I do, or what I’m looking for, or how they can help me?

If they care about me, they’ll definitely know the answers to all of those things, right?

WRONG.  

Absolutely wrong.

Okay, maybe *some* of your friends will know what you do, but do they really know what that means?  If someone is talking to them about a problem they are having, will they know enough to say “oh, my good buddy Dippy_66 does exactly what you are talking about!  He says he’s a product manager, but I know he specializes in all the stuff you are talking about!”

I bet less than 5% of your “friends” know enough breadth and depth about you, what you have done, and what direction you want to go, to really help like this.

The other 95%?

They want to help, but they might not know what you do, or what you want to do.

You see, product manager, as well as most other job titles, can be ambiguous and misleading.  They might not know that you are a master of getting a product from idea to completion, or taking it to market in a big way. They might not know that you specialize in B2C… or wait, is it B2B?  And what do those things really mean, anyway??  You can summarize “product manager” as easily as you can summarize “HR” — they are just too broad.

It’s easy to “assume” that our contacts “know” what we do, but sometimes we don’t even understand the full breadth and depth of what we do!

Further, perhaps someone knows us from five or ten+ years ago.  Back when we were an Accounts Payable manager… they don’t know that since then we’ve finished school, got an MBA, and have been working as a finance executive.  They might remember that we were really fun to work with.  We did a good job, but in the downtime we had fun hanging out, playing pranks at the office, etc.  What are they going to tell people – that we were the funnest person in the office?  While that might be a cool distinction, it’s not necessarily going to help you in your job search.

Is that what you want them to communicate about you?

Even further, what if they knew us to be that AP manager, and they heard we were going to go to school to pursue a career as a finance executive.  What they might not have known is that when we went to school we realized we hated all-things-finance, and went on to work in the non-profit space… they won’t know that we’re looking for opportunities in that field.

Or what if we did have a great career in finance (and they knew that), but now we want to change careers and do something completely different?

Assuming our network knows what we do, or want to do, is a gamble.

When I was in my job search my wife of 11ish years asked “what do you do?”She seriously asked me what I did for a living, and what I was looking for.  She was asking because her friends were asking her, and she didn’t know how to communicate it.  She needed me to share, in my own words, what I was looking for, so she could empower her friends (aka, contacts) to help us.  She had been there during the degrees, the job promotions, etc., and I thought she “knew” me well.  She should have known the answer to her own question. But she couldn’t communicate it right, or even well.

Anonymous_66, take that gamble if you want, but I have learned there is a simple fix to not lose everything.  That is: communicate effectively, and empower your network to work with and for you!  This is one reason I’m SO BIG on recommending that job seekers send a monthly newsletter.

One last story.  When I started speaking professionally, I would be asked “how do you want us to introduce you?,” or “do you have a bio we can read?”

I wanted the introduction to be casual, informal, and not read like a robot, so I ignored the professional speakers advice and responded with something like “you know me well enough – I’m sure you’ll do a good introduction.  Just don’t make it too long.”

That’s my style – casual, friendly, and let’s get to the main event.  But I didn’t realize what people would actually say about me.  I wanted them to focus on X, and was pretty sure they would.  But no one focused on X… they all focused on A, B, C, or Y, Z… anything but X.  It was frustrating listening to these introductions, and I finally broke down and wrote introductions for each presentation.

The same thing is happening with your network.  They don’t know about your X… but they might remember A, B, or C.  Or they might assume Y or Z.

This is exactly why job seekers need to continually clarify who they are, and what they are looking for… even (especially) to their besties, even (especially) to their spouse, and to anyone who is willing to help them in their job search and networking.

And that, my friends, isn’t so Dippy.

 

4 Comments »

4 responses to “Why Tell Your Network What You Do When They Already Know What You Do?”

  1. Sophie Lagacé says:

    Agreed. If what you do is the slightest bit specialized or technical, your friends have no understanding of your job — nor you of theirs. Explaining it in lay terms is not only a good idea for communicating your needs properly, it’s a great way to practice your pitch.

  2. Sophie Lagacé says:

    Also: Don’t you you should never read the comments? ^_^

  3. […] Does this sound familiar to you?  I hear this frequently. It’s why I wrote the post Why Tell Your Network What You Do When They Already Know What You Do? […]